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How to Write Your First Novel in Under 4 Weeks

How to Write Your First Novel in Under 4 Weeks

    How many times have you started work on a novel, only to abandon the project a few weeks later? After all, between work, family, and sleep, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get what’s in your head down on paper.

    Believe it or not, writing a novel takes less time than you might think. If you can set aside a few hours a day for just 4 weeks, you can finally finish the novel you’ve been meaning to write for years.

    If you’re serious about writing your first novel, then just do it. And if you wanna do it fast, here are some tips for doing it in under 4 weeks.

    1. Set Your Goals (But Know Your Limits)

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    What is a novel, to you? Is it 50,000 words, or 100,000? Figure out how long your novel needs to be, then, figure out how many words you write per hour. Once you know those two figures, you will be able to see if your goal is reasonable given the number of hours you can commit to writing each day over the next 4 weeks.

    According to author Dean Wesley Smith, “Most professional writers can average about one thousand words an hour, when going on a novel. Not in the struggle of the beginnings, but once the novel is underway. So, simple math says that to write a 90,000 word novel, you have about 90 hours of work.”

    Assuming that you can keep up that pace, Smith says you should be able to crank out an entire novel in under a month: “Using that 90 hour number, divide by 3 (weeks) and you get 30 hours per week. Divide that by 7 days and you get about 4 ½ hours per day, or converted to words, 4,500 words per day, which in 21 days will get you a 94,000 word novel.”

    Keeping up that pace might be tough for a first-time novelist, but there’s a little wiggle room in there that means you can still get your novel done in less than a month. And if your novel only needs to clock in around 50,000-60,000 words, you might only need two weeks. Starting to sound feasible, right?

    2. Go Public

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    Yes, we writers are solitary creatures. But telling friends and family that you have set this ambitious goal for yourself makes you accountable for your project. If you set a goal to complete a novel in 4 weeks and fail, chances are your Aunt Mildred will bring it up at your next family dinner. If Aunt Mildred’s disdain isn’t enough to motivate you, then I don’t know what is.

    3. Be Part of a Community

    Consider writing your novel during November, also known as National Novel Writing Month. During NaNoWriMo 2009, over 165,000 participants signed up to try and write a novel in just 30 days, and over 30,000 of them succeeded. If you choose to participate in NaNoWriMo, then you will have support from other participants, weekly “pep-talk” emails from the organizers, and invites to local writing parties hosted in your area.

    If you think that speedy writing doesn’t lead to good writing, take note: To date, 27 novels written during NaNoWriMo have been printed by major publishers, and I’m sure plenty of others are earning money for their authors through e-book or print-on-demand sales.

    4. Have a Plan

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    Noted fantasy author Jeff VanderMeer wrote “Predator: South China Seas” in just 8 weeks, but he probably could have gotten done in 4 if he wasn’t also working full-time and working on other novels at the same time. He wrote a great blog post about how he was able to pull this off back in 2008, and it includes great advice on how to best prepare for writing under a tight deadline.

    “Most of the time, I wrote new scenes in the mornings, revised existing scenes in the afternoons, and spent my evenings on line-edits and rewrites of individual paragraphs here and there,” he explained. “By structuring my time this way, I made better progress than if I’d just focused on doing new scenes all day until the novel was done.”

    VanderMeer also urges writers to outline the entire novel in detail before actually starting the writing process: “If possible, make sure that you have a one- or two-line description of the action for a particular chapter or scene. Know going into the writing for a week exactly what each scene is supposed to do and why…If you don’t know that, you will spend most of your creative energy just trying to figure out what should be happening.”

    5. Put the Pedal to the Metal

    If four weeks doesn’t seem challenging enough, why not write your novel in just two? This is what Suzanne Pitner calls “Fast Drafting”, and if you can set aside 14 days to do nothing but write, you can put together a manuscript of 70,000 words in that time period by writing 5,000 words per day.

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    Basically, just drop everything and do nothing but write. Chances are you get at least two weeks of vacation time each year, so why not take it all at once? Maybe 2011 is the year that you actually do something important with your downtime.

    The Bottom Line

    There are a lot of other tips I could give you, from working in a distraction-free environment to incentivizing the writing process with small rewards along the way. But the most important advice is this: don’t be afraid of failure. Chances are, fear is the only thing holding you back.

    To get over your fear of failure, you need to throw caution to the wind. Write as if your life depends on it. And if you get scared, just think of how different your life will be in just four weeks. That should be all the incentive you need to reach your goal.


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    Tucker Cummings

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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